When I was a child, my family and I always celebrated Christmas Eve with traditions from our native Poland. The evening meal, which is meatless, is called wigilia. Tradition demands that you set an extra place just in case the Christ Child comes to visit in the form of a stranger or an uninvited guest. One year, my parents and I (we were a small family, as I am an only child) were sitting down to enjoy our meal of pierogi (Polish dumplings) when the doorbell rang. We were surprised to see Red Johnson, an acquaintance of my father’s who had had a very difficult year. He was alone and chose to come to our home on Christmas Eve to wish us happy holidays. He apologized for intruding, and we assured him that we were just thrilled to have him represent the Christ Child and to share with him comfort, solace, and dinner on Christmas Eve. Now, I always set an extra place on Christmas Eve in memory of Red and look out the window to see if there might be someone there. You never know who the Christ Child will send to your door!
Daytona Beach, Florida
As a member of a railway family, I grew up with the Canadian National Railway and spent many Christmases in the stations, as living quarters came with my father’s position of railway agent. I have many fond memories of the stations and of the quaint Christmases held there. The station was the center of every township across Canada. All the Christmas trees would come into town by train, and it was my father’s duty to keep the trees in an icehouse at the end of the station, ready to sell to the local drayman, whose huge sled was still drawn by horses in the 1940s. The man would drive the sled, loaded with trees, through the town and to rural families so they could choose a tree for their celebrations. Just a glimpse of a charmed Canadian life…
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada